Governor shopping around oil and gas compromise bill

Photo: oil tanksGovernor John Hickenlooper is floating a draft bill that would give local governments greater authority over oil and gas development.

The draft bill distributed Friday would give local governments more control over setbacks for wells and allow them to put moratoriums on drilling. Local governments, however, could not ban fracking outright.

"We’ve reached a place in negotiating local control issues related to oil and gas development where we are soliciting greater stakeholder input,” Hickenlooper’s office said in an email on Friday. “We still need larger support - and particularly bipartisan support - before deciding whether to call a special session."

The governor has been working with lawmakers, members of the oil and gas industry and environmental groups for the past two months to reach a compromise over development rules.

Hickenlooper’s goal is to keep measures off the November ballot that would allow local governments to ban fracking.

Three groups are pursuing initiatives to ban fracking but attention hass focused mainly on those measures pushed by Coloradans For Local Control. The group reportedly has ties to Congressman Jared Polis [D-Boulder], a deep-pocketed drilling opponent. Reports Friday say that Polis has agreed to drop his support for the initiatives if the governor's bill passes.

But that could be a tough sell with stakeholders. The Colorado Petroleum Association, which hasn't been a part of the negotiations, already says it won't support the draft legislation.

"We think the state has a very good process for allowing local governments to fully participate" in drilling decisions, said CPA head Stan Dempsey. "We simply don't believe that trying to draft and enact legislation that is of such magnitude during a special session in a rushed format is productive."

The push for new policy does have some fans though.

"I’m happy with the latest draft of the local control bill," said state House Majority Leader Dicey Lee Hullinghorst in a statement Friday. "As we continue our outreach to stakeholders, I’m optimistic that these extended negotiations will come to a successful conclusion."